I’m sure this will be OK. We will just do one month of distance schooling at home. No-one will need to repeat a grade, no-one will be seriously left behind in such a short time. Very good that none of our kids have any need for special support, and I only have five kids to keep an eye on. Some others will have a lot more to do.
I choose to think positively, and I am already visualizing all those slow and empowering days of online instruction that will glide past us like endless restful Saturdays.
In reality, however, by the second day of online instruction I am taking deep breaths and wondering seriously how I can make my first-grader sit still on his chair, so that he will do most of his school work in a sitting position. Even just for a quarter of an hour at a time.
Stupidly, however, he seems to prefer doing his math assignment on the purchasing power of two euros by standing on his head against the back of the sofa. But what if his circulation really works better that way? Should I try myself? Actually, he did his assignment quite quickly and concluded that two euros would be enough for a bag of candy or a pair or second-hand trainers.
He finds it quite impossible to concentrate on the Finnish language. The loose tooth in his mouth is so much more interesting. He keeps touching it all the time. He says it is coming off any moment now. I ask him to keep his mouth open, so that I can see about it. I hardly need to touch the tooth before it falls on the table.
The joy about the fallen tooth is like the joy of a victorious warlord. But it was such a painful procedure that he just cannot continue with his Finnish. How about an hour of computer games? he suggests.
Dear, dear teachers, I deeply respect you for being able to teach these kiddies anything at all, especially as you have twenty-three of them in your classroom.
It helps me a little to know that other parents are stuck in the same quagmire. Some probably have a bit more solid hummock to stand on, while some others are already knee-deep in mud, but I am sure none of them are having a good time. Or maybe I am, if I look at this through my cleaner glasses.
My husband is able to work remotely from our storeroom, where he built a home office between the sleeping bags and piles of empty buckets. He said he was not going to have his Skype meetings in the house, and for some reason I understand him. Even the kids are being quite reasonable about the situation, except the teen-ager who wants to know just why he cannot go skateboarding with his friends.
And I do not know it either. I do not know what is normal in this situation, or if we are overreacting or underreacting. When you can on the one hand, but cannot on the other, and then the prime minister said very emphatically that kids should avoid all kinds of social contact. I send a screen capture of the ministerial statement to my son. You know, this is a rule set by the government, not by your parents.
But what if the kids just cannot resist the temptation, if the seniors run away from their home isolation, and if that curly girl person simply needs to go and buy the right kind of shampoo just now? And what about me as a mother wanting to go and buy ketchup to go with the pasta casserole? Does all the strain and effort go to waste, if each of us cheats just a little?
“This book is my worst enemy,” growls the first-grader, who is supposed find diphthongs in his textbook. I understand that diphthongs are just about the last thing he finds interesting right now. Frankly, I tend to agree, but it is not good for any teacher to say so. We find the diphthongs, I tell him he is a very clever boy, and at the same time I quietly wonder how long it will take the third-grader and me to translate the next chapter of English into his exercise book.
I recently realized that the boy had not done any of his translations so far. He has somehow managed to skip the whole thing, but now he will be under his mother’s observant eye and translate his assignments. It is a lot of work to check each word in the glossary. It is almost as if I had placed a book in Hebrew under his nose. Every piece of action takes very, very long, and the translator’s facial expression remains one of constant horror.
Yet, I decide to take this situation as merely a minor challenge. Having sat at the kitchen table between two primary school kids for two hours, I almost hope they could take their tests right after they go back to school, so the teachers would see which of the moms were really finding the diphthongs and which weren’t.
With the bigger kids I made a unilateral contract that they would take care of their school assignments independently and only consult their mother if they needed help. I felt very lucky that our only high schooler had just sat his final math exam. If he had needed his mother to help him with his advanced math, I would have simply smiled tenderly and suggested that he should ask me to do something else. I thought the middle school kids would not encounter anything quite so difficult that I could not manage
That was what I thought on the first day of quarantine.
To be more precise, that was what I thought until 1 pm on the first day.
The ninth-grader came downstairs with her laptop, working on an important chemistry assignment that was due to be returned right away. They were allowed to use books and other resources, but she seemed to trust firmly in her mother and asked me if I could just check one point. “Write down the chemical symbols of the metal and the metal ion. Can they cause a reaction together, and if they can, what kind of a reaction will it be? And there is a picture of a cup with a stick in it and there are also letters and plus signs and very many small numbers.
I take my time and use the Google. Then, according to my original strategy, I smile tenderly at my child and tell her to just think about it carefully, as I’m sure she can figure out the correct answer.
So, I did not help her. Because I had no idea what it was all about.
I keep reading the messages that keep flooding in. The guy teaching the third grade is so wonderful that I’m almost in tears. “I guess I’m going to miss you real bad, as I’m already missing you a little”, he writes to his class. He has set up a message chain for the parents and the children where we can share our experiences. How thoughtful! I’m happy for about five minutes, until the flow of messages really begins, and my phone beeps all the time.
“Hi, I got an email,” one of the pupils says. Five seconds later there is a new message, a thumbs-up. The next pupil says: “I got a whatsup.” Another says he also got one, and yet another sends a smiley. One says she has already done her project, and the fourth is wondering when the assignments for the next day are coming. Someone is wondering what he should eat, and someone tells him to eat pizza. Messages are flying back and forth, and my phone obediently beeps for every one of them.
At first I feel I do not want to join the conversation. I just delete the tens of incoming messages. But then one smart parent asks the teacher if they could have another channel for the pupils only, so that the parents would not miss the really important messages among the completed projects and pizzas. The teacher agrees and then advises everybody to stick to what is really important.
I am writing this text on the second day of lockdown. We only have 26 days left, hopefully not more than that. Although I’m beginning to have a sinister feeling that there may be more to come.
I feel that the Heavenly Father gave us this crisis to stop us, selfish people, who are so used to easy living. He gave us time and took away the hurry, which is what I have so often prayed for. Only I never expected this kind of response to my prayer.
I tell my children that it is good to be at home. There is nothing we need to worry about. We will survive if we only tolerate the situation and our close togetherness for a short while. I even feel that we are lucky and privileged compared to many others. We are unlikely to starve to death, and we have many things to do. I really mean it when I say that we are happy to be able to live through this time together with our own family.
I remain to wait for the developments with many thoughts, expectations and even fears. Although there are no reliable answers, I still feel calm and hopeful. Maybe it is a privilege to live through such an interesting time? This period will leave a mark on history, and people can learn from it.
“By tender goodness in a quiet shelter
now by the power gracious we are brought –
we trust His mercy; He will never alter
whate’er in love He gives to be our lot.” (SHZ 600:1)
Text: Satu Luokkanen
Translation: Sirkka-Liisa Leinonen
You will find the original blog post here.
Kesäseuraradion lähetys alkoi 17. kesäkuuta, viikkoa aiemmin kuin edellisvuosina. Jo ennen tätä kuultiin seurapainotteinen kevätlähetys, joka oli kuultavissa pelkästään nettiradion kautta. Kun Kesäseuraradio päättää tulevana maanantaina lähetyksensä, sen vastuunkantajilla on takanaan melkoinen määrä työtä.